Businesses need to put the same focus on sustainability as they do on making profits says Michael O’Hara, Group Managing Director of DataSolutions
Understandably, the world’s attention has been focused on tackling COVID-19 over the last 18 months. However, there has been an equally important crisis continuing to rumble, somewhat neglected, in the background. This crisis is one that has been growing with intensity for many years, one that has never been more critical. It is the crisis that will impact everyone, especially future generations.
It is, of course, global climate change. And the situation is getting worse with each passing day.
Last year, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) responded to a record number of climate disasters in the Asia Pacific region and we saw Arctic sea ice shrinking to the second-lowest levels on record over the summer. That’s not to mention the fact that coral reefs around the world are being irreparably destroyed or that, currently, there are one million species of animals under threat with the risk of extinction as a result of climate change.
Small steps can make a big difference
The reality is that the climate crisis is an emergency and action is needed now. Thankfully, with advancements in technology, there are measures that can be implemented immediately and which can have an impact.
For example, solar and onshore wind power is already being used to provide the cheapest sources of electricity for two thirds of the global population. On a smaller scale, the rise in production of electric cars is enabling individuals to do their part and reduce pollution levels created by petrol and diesel cars.
Similarly, Irish businesses have the option to choose more sustainable utility providers to minimise their energy usage, while the uptake of cloud technology is actively reducing the dependence on paper products and energy-intensive, on-premise solutions. The pandemic has also created a shift to home-working and has reduced business travel on a widespread scale – something which many companies are embracing and considering in the long-term.
While these moves might seem small, they represent the beginning of an incredibly important journey that can make a big difference. However, the first step for organisations should be measuring and reporting on their carbon footprints in order to identity areas where they can improve.
Good for the environment, good for business
Think about this: what is the point of maximising our salaries and business profits if we end up with a planet that we cannot live in? It might seem extreme but there is no point in being successful if the survival of animal and mankind is in jeopardy. This is why companies should be putting equal efforts into maximising sustainability and getting buy-in from key stakeholders for “going green”.
Being more sustainable in both operations and product or service offering can help to boost sales, enhance reputation and drive growth. It can also increase competitiveness when targeting new business or tender opportunities and avoid customer loss.
After all, it also makes sense from a business perspective. Employees, customers and suppliers are increasingly looking for organisations that care about the environment and can help them to live and do business more sustainably. Therefore, being more sustainable in both operations and product or service offering can help to boost sales, enhance reputation and drive growth. It can also increase competitiveness when targeting new business or tender opportunities and avoid customer loss.
Productivity is another advantage, with the pandemic proving that a vast number of people do not need to travel to an office every day to do their jobs effectively, as long as they have the right technology to access all of their applications and data as they would in the office. In addition to the obvious benefits of less commuting, there are also opportunities for organisations to reduce office space and the commensurate energy consumption, thus reducing their operational costs too.
Indeed, a recent CEBR study found that by reducing commuting hours and consolidating real estate through sustainable IT practices, remote work could help reduce annual CO2 emissions by 214 million tons. Citrix, the leader in Digital Workspaces, has created technology that allows 100 million of its users worldwide to get work done from anywhere on any device, whilst also reducing energy consumption.
Learning from the pandemic
If COVID-19 has highlighted anything, it is that we can, on a global level, bring about major changes to our work and living routines if we really put our minds to it! The climate crisis is, in reality, a much larger global issue and the same lessons apply. Both individuals and businesses need to be talking about this issue, transforming their approach and taking meaningful action now.
Furthermore – as was the case when the case numbers relating to coronavirus started to spiral – the response was quick and people took responsibility. The crisis was sudden and discipline was needed. Tackling climate change to slow down its rate and reverse its effects requires that same level of urgency, accountability and commitment. Preparation is also key.
A DataSolutions survey carried out in March 2021 among 93 tech industry leaders found that 57% are planning to become net carbon neutral, but less than a quarter (24%) have a written company policy for same. Key hurdles to becoming net carbon neutral were revealed as uncertainty on how to measure it (62%), a lack of capacity or resources (41%) and difficulty in getting buy-in (32%).
Therefore, doing research and establishing a strategy is vital. Another thing to remember is that while every organisation will be different in terms of what they can do to be more sustainable, sharing experiences and knowledge on what works is invaluable. Moreover, it has to be a continuous and constant journey – and hopefully a positively climate-changing one.
Our contribution is to establish Techies Go Green, a group of like-minded technology companies who want to take positive steps to become carbon neutral. So you see, it is possible to be more profitable and sustainable all at once. It is our goal to show people how.